06/27/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Does a Girl Who Is Afraid of Heights Start a Risky Sport Like Aerial Skiing? Part II



...I should have known by the look on his face that I was in store for something terrifying.

"Are you ready for a double?"

I looked toward the towering double jump ramp and felt my mouth go dry. I turned back to the head coach, gave a nervous little laugh and grabbed my skis, planning to head to the small, comfortable, safe jump.

"I wasn't kidding, Nikki. Let's go."

Well, I knew I couldn't let down the national team coach, so I nervously made my way over to the stairs of the double jump. I clumped up the seventy-two steps and stood atop the platform that led to a strip of white plastic and ended in a ten-foot-tall wall. And I have to say, it really does look like a wall when you're gazing at it from the top!

My hands were sweating, my stomach was in my throat and I didn't know if my legs were going to stop shaking long enough to actually get me off this jump. It's funny, in those moments of sheer terror, how you start to imagine all the things that could go wrong. I could fall on the inrun. Have my legs give out, and hit the jump. Go off the side of the ramp and miss the pool...Or I might not make it all the way around for two flips, and land on my back or head! Through my years as an aerial skier, I actually saw all these things happen.

As I stood up there that first time, debating if I should go shooting down the ramp and into space, I looked around the water ramp facility and noticed that all the other athletes had stopped what they were doing. I would later learn that this was a sort of tradition: watch to see if the rookie would actually take the plunge. Well, luckily for my future career in the sport, my ego was much bigger than my brain. I wasn't going to take the walk of shame back down the stairs.

I turned my skis down the steep inrun, put my arms out for stability and went speeding at thirty-five miles per hour toward this intimidating jump. All the while, I was remembering my coach's advice: "Just think of your takeoff, focus on doing a single back lay-out, take a quick look at the water and pull your knees to your chest for the second flip. I'll yell 'Out!' when you need to stretch your body back out for the landing."

I reached the bottom of the jump, locked out my legs and swung my arms to initiate the flip. I soared off the top of the structure, flipped over once and spotted the water. I must have taken too long a look because I heard my coach shout, "Pull, pull, pull!" reminding me to get into that tucked position for the second flip. I quickly pulled my knees in and spun into the second rotation. I was flipping too quickly to be sure where I was, but I heard my coach yell, "Out!" Almost by instinct, my legs shot out and I hit the water-right side up.

I wanted to scream. Not because I was terrified or even in pain. I was exhilarated! I had never felt such a rush before. In that moment, my life changed. This was no longer a passing whim, this was now my passion. And I was going to find a way to put my heart and soul into this sport.

When people ask me what the single most important factor is in achieving our goals, I tell them that if you don't develop a passion for what you do, you won't be able to vault any of the other hurdles. Our drive comes from our soft inside, so if we develop this, everything else becomes a lot easier.

Excerpt from When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out

Motivational Weight Management Tip

My experience of working with the Biggest Loser contestants and Symtrimics has inspired me to leave motivational diet, health, and wellness tips at the end of all of my blogs. These tools will be driven from the actual advice shared in my weekly motivational sessions. This week's tip: Just as you get tired with routine exercise, so does your body. As soon as you hit a plateau, it's time to take some risks and try something new. Take it as an opportunity to try a sport or activity that you've never done before, but always thought would be fun.